Kolkata derby at par with biggest derbies in the world: East Bengal FC’s Constantine

East Bengal FC head coach Stephen Constantine is looking forward to the Kolkata derby as the Red and Golds take on ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.

Constantine who has witnessed many Kolkata derbies from afar while being the head coach of the Indian national team hailed the fixture as the biggest one in Asian football and felt it is at par with some of the biggest footballing derbies in the world.

Coming into the game on the back of a win, Constantine is hoping his side put their best foot forward and end their winless run in the Kolkata derby.

Constantine addressed the media during the pre-match press conference:

Here are the excerpts:

What are your thoughts on the Kolkata derby?

For me, all the games are important. The Kolkata derby is the biggest game in the Indian football calendar and it's a special game. We are excited about facing ATK Mohun Bagan. They are a good side and we are expecting a very tough game and we will try to take the points. We are here to win football games. It's a derby and your form goes out of the window. We have had a good week of training and we expect us to give a good account of ourselves on Saturday.

How much progress have East Bengal FC made since the Durand Cup match against ATK Mohun Bagan?

I think we have made a tremendous improvement since the last Kolkata derby. I think we are a better team than when we played them in the Durand Cup. Of course, it's league points and also the question of the bragging rights that go with the Kolkata derby and I'm conscious about the fact that we haven't won the Kolkata derby for 8-9 matches, so we will try and fix that on Saturday but they are an excellent side with some very good players. We respect them but we don't fear them or any other side in the Hero ISL. We believe that we have a group of players who will run and fight non-stop and then we will see what happens.

How have you seen the Kolkata derby evolve over the years during your association with Indian football?

I remember the first time I saw the Kolkata derby in Kolkata. There weren't enough seats to fit the people inside the stadium. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. It is one of the biggest derbies in the world. You put it up there with Arsenal-Tottenham, Rangers-Celtic, AC Milan-Inter Milan. It's our derby and the biggest derby in Asia for sure. I would have loved to have played in it but I will take coaching in it obviously this is my second derby and I am looking forward to my first win in the derby on Saturday.

Both teams are going into the Kolkata derby with a win in their last game. So how do you see this match in terms of the chances for both teams?

I am not interested in one point and I want all three. You don't go into the derby game, not trying to win it. I think it's important to highlight that. Everyone wants to win it, the staff, the players and the fans on both sides want to win it. That's why we play it.

Do you think the Kolkata derby comes too early for both teams given what's at stake?

You can play the derby out on the street, outside the supermarket, it will still be the derby. It doesn't matter when it comes. When it comes it will be there. You can't back away, you can't hide. We will give a good account of ourselves. We can't control when it comes. We are ready for it.

Does the fact that you haven't won the Kolkata derby for a long time help you prepare the players for the game in a better way?

No it does not. Every derby is special, every derby is unique. I think we approach the game in a professional manner. We have done our homework on ATK Mohun Bagan. They are a good side and we will see what happens.

In your last match against NorthEast United FC, your team played tremendous football but the Kolkata derby is a totally different scenario. How prepared are you for this match?

I don't think we played tremendous football. I thought we did okay. We won the game that's the main thing. We had moments where we played some good football as we did against FC Goa and Kerala Blasters FC. Against ATK Mohun Bagan, we have to play good football for ninety minutes and not in moments. It's a completely different scenario not because it's a derby but because we are facing ATK Mohun Bagan who are a good side and if we do not play the way we can play, they will punish us. So we have to be very careful. We are aware of the strengths and weaknesses and we will try to exploit that.

Cleiton Silva has improved East Bengal FC, so how much impact will he have on the Kolkata derby?

Cleiton with his experience and knowledge of the game and the way the football is played here is a tremendous asset for us. He will also be the captain on Saturday. It's a massive thing to be a captain in a derby game.

There is a reason he is with us because he has certain qualities on the pitch. He is a leader on and off the pitch and we need that.

Is this your biggest challenge as a head coach?

I always say that my next job is the most challenging and the Kolkata derby is my next job. East Bengal FC haven't been where it should be in the last few years and my job is to make sure we are in a better place. We are trying to lay the foundations for that. This doesn't happen overnight. I am very happy with the way we have reacted to the way I want to play football. I hope that continues. it's a big challenge but hopefully, I can rise to this challenge and take East Bengal FC to a better place.

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